Three robbers wielding weapons stormed a Rotorua shop, yelling at three primary school children buying lollies to ‘‘be quiet’’ and ‘‘sit on the floor’’.
Rotorua Detective John Hope described the actions of the three men as ‘‘despicable.’’
‘‘The fact that these offenders showed no hesitation in committing this particular robbery in front of three very young children is despicable,’’ said Hope.
As well as the Saturday robbery at Jeram’s Superette, police believe the same offenders committed a second robbery at St Andrews Superette the following day.
And three men arrested in Rotorua after they crashed a stolen car this afternoon could be linked, police say.
Jeram’s Superette was robbed about 3.20pm on Saturday.
Police said two men armed with weapons confronted the owner, while another went out the back of the shop.
The three stole cash and personal jewellery items before leaving in a getaway car, a silver Mazda Familia driven by another man.
Police said no-one was injured but the occupants of the shop, including the children, were badly shaken .
On Sunday afternoon one man in a balaclava entered St Andrews Superette on Otonga Road.
He grabbed the till and was again seen to get into a silver Mazda Familia containing at least one other person.
The Mazda, believed to have been involved in both robberies, was found abandoned in Ti Street, Rotorua, about 7pm on Sunday. It was stolen from Auckland last Thursday.
The superette’s owner said the robbery only lasted a couple of minutes but ‘‘the staff were scared.
‘‘I was told by my staff member the offender didn’t speak much besides from him telling her to keep quiet. He used a lot of body language, indicating he had a weapon and if she didn’t do as she was supposed to he would use it.’’
The owner said by wearing a mask the offender must be a local .
This afternoon police arrested three teenagers who crashed a stolen car after a police chase.
Police are now investigating whether they are linked to the robberies over the weekend, although Detective Senior Sergeant Zane Smith said it was too early to say.
‘‘We know at least four people were involved in the robberies and still have to confirm whether there is a definite link between events at the weekend and today.’’
Men in balaclavas were seen in a Mazda - which had been stolen on Sunday - in Ngongotaha about 3.45pm.
Police found the vehicle but the driver failed to stop. The pursuit had to be called off because of concern for public safety.
Police caught up with the vehicle again seconds before it crashed into a power pole on Te Ngae Street near the intersection with Sala Street.
Three men took off from the scene but were later arrested.
Smith said a call from the member of the public about the men was a critical factor in the arrests.
More public assistance was required to determine whether the men were linked to the robberies, he said.
Police also wanted to hear from anyone in the Ti Street/Fenton Street area between 3.30pm and 7pm on Saturday who saw the Mazda getaway car being abandoned or any other suspicious activity.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Rotorua Police on 07 348 0099.
Information can also be provided anonymously to the organisation Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
- Waikato Times